page loader

The Society thanks Brett Odgers for his extensive research and this in-depth paper, an edited version of which is below, or linked here is the full Paper with all references. In this paper Brett Odgers discusses the history, values, functions and past reviews of Anzac Parade. He suggests the status quo of the Parade is no longer suitable for Canberra as a city and the nation’s capital. It has great potential for a higher level of excellence in response to contemporary demands and opportunities.

In the wake of public debate over the extensions to the Australian War Memorial, it is time for review and regeneration of Anzac Parade. Indeed, Heritage Management Plans have recently (2022) been updated by the National Capital Authority (NCA) for Anzac Parade and the Parliament House Vista. The Parade is a centrepiece and icon of the evolving National Capital and relevant to a spectrum of political, demographic, social and cultural changes in the rapidly growing city.

National Capital Plan and National Heritage List
Anzac Parade is on the National Heritage List ‘for cultural, aesthetic and ceremonial significance’ and the Parliament House Vista is on the Commonwealth Heritage List as ‘the central designed landscape of Canberra, expressing Walter Burley Griffin’s design vision.’ The National Capital Plan enshrines Griffin’s winning plan and vision for the national capital, especially as a city in harmony with the landscape and symbolic of the natural environment, values, ideals, history and achievements of the nation.

The Australian War Memorial and the Memorial Parade/Anzac Parade are bracketed together on the National Heritage List with this inscription:
‘Anzac Parade, as part of the Parliamentary Vista and as an extension of the Australian War Memorial, has a deep symbolism for many Australians, and has become part of one of the major cultural landscapes of Australia. The notion of a ceremonial space of this grandeur is not found elsewhere and Anzac Parade is nationally important for its public and commemorative functions.’

Professor Ken Taylor has written extensively about Canberra the city in the landscape along with the symbolism of Griffin’s design and, in particular, eloquently about Anzac Parade as a ‘landscape of memory’: ‘It is one of the great landscape axes of the world. The serendipitous outcome is that Griffin’s Land Axis maintains its national symbolic status in a dual way. One as part of Griffin’s ideal city, the other as national memory.’ [1]

Sally Barnes, NCA Chief Executive says: ‘The Australian War Memorial talks to Anzac Parade’ [2] During an ABC Local Radio 666 interview on 24 November 2021, Sally Barnes also said ‘Griffin envisaged the Land Axis north of the Lake should be for the people.’

Origins and reviews of Anzac Parade
At the direction of Griffin and Charles Weston, Griffin’s Plaisance or Parkway was planted with trees and shrubs and walkways. The site for the Australian War Memorial was determined by the Federal Capital Advisory Committee in 1923. Griffin’s Prospect Parkway was renamed Anzac Park in 1928 by the Canberra National Memorials Committee.

‘New visions’ for Anzac Parade were explored by the National Capital Development Commission (NCDC) in the 1960s and for the 50th celebrations of Gallipoli in 1965 they reconstructed and renamed the ‘processional way’ Anzac Parade /Anzac Park. Clough and Harrison of NCDC replaced Weston’s trees with Tasmanian Blue Gums and planter boxes of New Zealand shrubs.

A radical redesign of Anzac Parade was proposed in the early 1990s by the National Capital Planning Authority (NCPA). [3] An open competition yielded ‘four finalist teams of highly experienced Australian architects, landscape architects and other designers.’ The winning Daryl Jackson Architects’ plan displayed intensive parklands whilst keeping the open Land Axis vista. Anzac Parade was assessed to be ‘a place that needs to be engaged with directly – to walk, look and reflect.’ …

In September 1991 NCPA held a Seminar on Landscape in the Central National Area (with Reid, Jackson, Giurgola, Weirick, Johnson and Stretton) that led to the Central National Area Design Study 1994-95 report Looking to the Future (1994). [5] … The 1991 Seminar discussed Daryl Jackson’s winning design for Anzac Parade: he argued ‘landscape alone cannot assume the burden of meaning and symbolism we expect of the National Capital.’ He designed parterres, walks and garden beds on the ‘undistinguished strip’, imagery of the States in the federation and attractive parkland inviting ‘people, concerts, meetings, gatherings, festivals.’ [7]

There have been no more reviews or redesigns since 1990-91. The NCPA project looks like a missed opportunity.

In an ACT Heritage Week 2004 public talk, Graeme Trickett, former senior Heritage bureaucrat, called for Anzac Parade to be ‘restored as a park with no more militarisation.’ For some years observers have noted with concern diminution of Central Canberra parkland, whilst population and employment are increasing. …

Original Griffin Plan
At the NCPA Seminar James Weirick highlighted Griffin’s plan, the Prospect Parkway with Casino at the base of Mt Ainslie, a parkland Plaisance along the Land Axis derived from Frederick Law Olmsted Snr’s Midway Plaisance in Chicago and the Casino, modelled on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Midway Gardens, drawing people for relaxation, recreation, concerts and popular entertainment. Professor Weirick was not sure we need to continue the solemnity of the War Memorial throughout the Parade and regretted the ‘desert-like emptiness and lack of people.’ [8] …

Stakeholders and users of Anzac Parade
The Parade is not regularly used for commemorative purposes. There are only two annual ceremonial days: Anzac and Remembrance. The crunch of marching boots is rarer still as marching bands have been banned in favour of broadcast marching music for the Veterans’ March on Anzac Day. …
Parade Stakeholders include future generations. The latter are already rapidly arriving as residents along Constitution Avenue, in Section 5 Campbell and prospective redevelopment in Reid. Parklands and open space are diminishing in the city and inner north suburbs. The location and nature of ‘the processional way’ is incongruous in this rapidly developing scenario, which is more-or-less the residential density, areas and amenities envisaged by Griffin. The NCA seems more concerned with ‘screening’ such housing, than restoring or creating valuable parkland and amenity for a burgeoning population. …

Landscape values, aesthetics and symbolism
The long, red gravel parade strip is incongruous and ugly, a distraction compared with the alternatives conceived by Griffin, Weston and the NCPA expert reviews in the early 1990s of public walkways, native flora, gardens and parkland, which can convey the symbolism of the Australian natural environment, ethos and identity, the Land Axis and The Parliament House Vista.

It is a vast area and presents great potential for impressive landscaping with parkland, gardens, walkways, accessibility, relaxation and recreation, culture and the arts, and to enhance the Land Axis with its national symbolism.

Aldo Giurgola and Ken Taylor have both drawn attention to the potential of the Parade to convey the elements of the Australian bush and wildlife. Scientifically, it is an urban wildlife corridor. Anzac Parade is presently ‘replete with symbols’, but has also great potential for non-military features and non-military purposes and events. [17]

It would not be difficult to redesign, relandscape and regenerate Anzac Parade whilst retaining a marching parade. Anzac Parade is 1.5 ks in length and 200 m wide. The northern intersecting side streets – Blamey Crescent, Currong Street/Geerilong Gardens and East and West Anzac Parks allow ample space for marching groups to form up … The impending rebuild of the approach and forecourt of the AWM enlarges these options. The commemorative memorials would be unaffected and given improved settings, access and safety.

Responsibility, approvals and accountability
The Parade and its environs have a fascinating and stimulating history and prospects. During the various Griffins’ Canberra tours conducted by the Walter Burley Griffin Society, the Griffins’ vision for Anzac Parade never fails to register interest and delight with tourists and Society members alike.
Anzac Parade warrants a review of its heritage values and potential for regeneration beyond status quo updates of Heritage Management Plans. With the increasing population and density of Canberra, high expectations for its role as the national capital and heritage conservation of Griffin’s Land Axis, there are opportunities to diversify and enhance the uses of this national land.

The Walter Burley Griffin Society Canberra Chapter submitted this proposal dated 11 May 2021 to the NCA in public consultations April-May 2021 on Anzac Parade – Heritage Management Plan (September 2020 Consultants Draft). The revised Heritage Management Plan, approved by the NCA Board, was published dated September 2022.

At their invitation, Brett Odgers, on behalf of the WBGS, met with Ms Sally Barnes, Chief Executive, and senior planning and heritage officers of the NCA, on 21 December 2023 to discuss the proposal, including ‘making it more of a green space and pedestrian walkway and garden.’. Potential options and reshaping of the Parade were discussed.

Mr Odgers was notified by NCA 16 January 2024 that ‘the HMP does not propose changes to Anzac Parade that would adversely affect the listed heritage values. There are currently no plans to commence a review of the heritage values under the EPBC Act.

Alternative futures
It appears that the NCA is not consulting with the ACT Government planning agencies by averting their gaze from the rapid residential development, losses of open space, recreational amenities and parkland and prospective tourism growth in the Anzac Parade precinct. The report A Capital for All Australians into fostering and promoting the significance of Australia’s National Capital by the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee (May 2024) coinciding with the NCA’s approval of the expansion of the Australian War Memorial, presages ever greater tourism and visits to the AWM.

The NCA appears also not to have assessed the aesthetic impacts of the brutal, controversial reconfiguration of the new AWM South Entrance front wall and commemorative Parade Ground looking down on, and accentuated by, an unrelieved austere Anzac Parade strip and six-lane avenue. How immeasurably enhanced could the latter be if converted to recreational parkland? At the same time, the ACT planning authorities should be alert to the demographic and land use imperatives. It is a project which should command the best collaborative efforts of the NCA, Commonwealth agencies and the ACT Government.

The full Paper: Review and regeneration Anzac Parade, Canberra_Brett Odgers_June 2024

The Society is indebted to Brett Odgers, former Chair of the Society’s Canberra Chapter for this Paper.

The Parkway planned by Griffin and planted with trees and gardens by Charles Weston, with the War Memorial, Mount Ainslie and at the left the suburb of Reid in the 1940s. The Parkway was where Anzac Parade is now. Photograph courtesy Brett Odgers.

Looking south along the 1.5km length of the unrelieved austere Anzac Parade. Photographed by Luke Wensing, March 2020.